29 January 2014

DVD Set Review: "iCarly": Season One, Volume One

Rated: TV-G (US) / G (Canada)
Starring: Miranda Cosgrove, Jennette McCurdy, Nathan Kress, and Jerry Trainor
Released: 2007 (original Nickelodeon premieres) / September 23, 2008 (DVD)
Synopsis: When Carly Shay (Miranda Cosgrove, Drake & Josh) takes the blame for her best friend Sam Puckett's (Jennette McCurdy, FЯED: The Movie) prank, the two of them end up having to record the school's talent show via camcorder, with the help of techie Freddie Benson (Nathan Kress), who has an insatiable crush on Carly.  A technical mistake leads to Freddie uploading a clip of Carly and Sam being goofy online instead of the actual talent show, much to their chagrin...but, when Internet users worldwide start singing their praises, the three of them start their own webcast: iCarly.  With Carly's artist older brother/legal guardian Spencer (Jerry Trainor, Wendell and Vinnie) there for moral support, she, Sam, and Freddie end up in one debacle after another! Whether it's a lovely young lady who tempts Freddie into leaving the webcast and his friends, being hacked by eleven-year-old evil genius Nevel Papperman (Reed Alexander), or spying on a teacher (Mindy Sterling, A.N.T. Farm) only to find out she has a thing for American Idol judge Randy Jackson, laughter, goofiness, and insanity are sure to ensue!
Created and produced by Dan Schneider (All That, Kenan and Kel, VICTORiOUS).

Artistic Merit

Plots: 3.5/5
The whole tween sitcom thing has been around for quite a while, and this doesn't exactly break new ground on that front.  Though entertaining enough and funny at times, the episodes tend to rely too much on inanity, which began to grate on my nerves after a while.

Production Values: 5/5
You'd expect Nickelodeon's long-time veteran to do a show right, wouldn't you? Well, he does great; the sets, soundtrack, acting, etc., are all well-don.  Nothing to really complain about in this department.

Moral Content

Positive Elements: 4/5
Carly, Sam, and Freddie look out for one another, and Sam looks out for the three of them as well.  Breaking into someone's house, hacking into other people's computers, and changing grades are all vilified.

Sex: 3.5/5
The flirting and mild kissing are to be expected; what I was a bit surprised by were references to "boobs" in the first episode.

Nudity: 4/5
Carly is seen in a two-piece swimsuit, and Spencer's bare back is seen, although with writing on it.  A woman is seen in an off-the-shoulder top that shown a hint of cleavage.  One episode involves all of the characters rubbing--and baring--their midriffs.

Language: 3/5
Mild name-calling such as "skunk-bag," and/or other similar terms, i.e., "suckish," are present in almost every episode.  What might bother discerning viewers more are the misuses of God's name, which are just as prevalent.

Violence: 3/5
The violence is purely slapstick and played for laughs: a TV falls on a girl's head, but she is seen unhurt just after; a girl is pulled away from a computer by her hair; a guy inside a giant pumpkin is rolled out to the street; etc.  What might be considered more serious is in the "iScream on Halloween" episode, where Carly and Sam appear to get blood on their hands.  (Spoiler: It turns out to be red hair dye.)

Drugs: 5/5
None. (This is Nickelodeon, people!)

Frightening/Intense Scenes: 4/5
The aforementioned Halloween episode involves the three kids going into a supposedly haunted apartment, and they believe ghosts are present, which causes lots of horror-movie-style screaming.  (Spoiler: It is all logically explained by the episode's end, and there are no ghosts.)  Also, a large TV set falls on a girl's head, which causes Carly to worriedly exclaim, "Is she okay?!!" (Spoiler: She is.)

Other: 4/5
Sam is a bit unkind to Freddie, and it seems like there's no reason why she should be.

Final Score: 3.5/5
I can't say I was a fan from day one, but I did follow iCarly from its early days until the series finale "iGoodbye" in 2012.  Upon watching these episodes in order--most if not all for at least the second time--I was amused at first, but, after a while, things became a bit repetitive.  Maybe those who are largely unfamiliar with the show would feel differently, but, I found this one slightly hard to finish, even at only thirteen episodes.  Of course die-hard fans of the series would love this--that goes without saying--but casual fans who might just want to see the episodes they missed would do better to borrow it from their local library before purchasing it, whether on DVD or via iTunes.

27 January 2014

Quickie Movie Review: "Scooby-Doo!: Camp Scare"

Rated: Not Rated (US)
Starring: Frank Welker, Matthew Lillard, and Grey DeLisle
Released: 2010 (DVD)
Synopsis: Fred (veteran voice actor Frank Welker) is excited to take Scooby-Doo (also voiced by Welker), Shaggy (Matthew Lillard, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed) Velma (Mindy Cohn), and Daphne (Grey DeLisle) to his childhood home away from home, Camp Little Moose! However, when they arrive, there's only a few campers, and the camp staff mentions that The Woodsman, who was nothing more than a old camp legend, has come to life and is terrorizing Camp Little Moose! Who could be behind it? Is it someone from the neighboring rival Camp Big Moose? Once again, Scooby and the gang have a mystery to solve!
Also features the voice of Mark Hamill (Star Wars).

My Review: The animation in this movie is great! It blends traditional hand drawings with computer effects, and it works quite well! Unfortunately, the story doesn't exactly stack up; it feels like an episode of one of the original cartoons with filler added to make it "feature-length".  Scooby fanatics will likely adore it; everyone else should only rent it.

Content Concerns:

(Warning! Spoilers below!)

  • Sex: A bit of kissing and flirting. 4/5
  • Nudity: Shirtless guys are seen quite frequently; some women wear bikinis; and, Daphne spends much of the film in a midriff-baring top and short shorts.  Still, the animation stylings make it a bit less sultry. 4/5
  • Language: Someone says, "Shut up!" 4.75/5
  • Violence: Comedic cartoon pratfalls and chase sequences occur all through the film.  Probably of biggest note is the main villain, who wields an ax and nearly slices and dices multiple characters.  Also, a flashback scene features a criminal who shoots off multiple rounds, though no one is seen hurt or killed. 3/5
  • Drugs: A kid is shown using an asthma inhaler, though it is later revealed that he is not who he claims to be; whether or not he really needed the inhaler is left to interpretation. 4/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Each of the baddies in this movie are a bit scary, especially the last one, a flying witch of sorts with hideous, ugly teeth.  A post-credits scene implying that she isn't a fake is especially unnerving. 2/5
  • Other: A bit of crude humor: burping, etc. 4/5
Final Score: 2.5/5

22 January 2014

Movie Review: "Cloud 9" (2014)

Rated: TV-G (US)
Starring: Dove Cameron and Luke Benward
Released: January 17, 2014 (Disney Channel premiere)
Synopsis: Kayla Morgan (Dove Cameron, Liv and Maddie) is known for being the best female snowboarder in her town...but, one night, a unfortunate mistake gets her kicked off her snowboarding team, and forced to work off the cost of the damages she caused at a doggy daycare.  While there, she meets Will (Luke Benward, Good Luck Charlie), a former 'boarder who stopped participating after an accident led to a severe injury.  Kayla knows that, with his help, she can prove she has what it takes to win the Fire and Ice snowboarding championship...but can she convince him to overcome the past and try again? Full of extreme sports action, and with bits of romance, drama, and comedy thrown in, Disney Channel's Cloud 9 is a tale of one girl against all odds!

Artistic Merit

Plot: 4/5
We all know that sports generally aren't my thing, but I can appreciate a well-made, family-friendly movie on the topic just as much as the next cinephile.  I've previously watched--and enjoyed--other sports-themed films, ranging from Hoosiers to The Climb to Brink! Though Cloud 9's plot isn't anything revolutionary--these days, what is?--it works pretty well, so much so that I completed watching the film in less than twenty-four hours, which I rarely do, even with short flicks.  The one quibble I had is with the girl who doesn't talk, but only texts.  Is she mute? Does she have laryngitis? That's never explained in the film.

Production Values: 5/5
The acting is wonderful, especially from Dove Cameron, who is best known for playing a set of twins on Liv and Maddie (much like Hayley Mills and Lindsay Lohan previously did on The Parent Trap.)  Every extreme sports scene is spot-on, as well.  The soundtrack is also great, even featuring a duet from Ms. Cameron and her co-star Luke Benward, as well as two tracks from CCM's Superchic[k].  No problems in this department.

Moral Content

Positive Elements: 5/5
Kayla doesn't let unfortunate circumstances or naysayers get her down, and puts her all into everything, whether it's snowboarding or restyling a doggy daycare.  Other characters overcome past mistakes, put differences aside, and expect support from their own families when they don't get it.

Sex: 4.5/5
A guy and girl are in some sort of pool/hot tub together, and nearly kiss; later on, they actually do smooch.

Nudity: 4.5/5
When the guy and girl are in the water, you can see his bare shoulders.  (You can clearly see, however, that she is wearing a swimsuit, though it's hard to tell whether it's a one-piece or not.)

Language: 5/5

Violence: 3/5
There's quite a bit of rough-and-tumble sports action here.  A character crashes through a sign and brings it down; an accident that is said to be debilitating is shown in a flashback; and, snowboarders are seen crashing down right many times.  Elsewhere, comic violence is present in one or two scenes; a girl falling into a doggy bathtub, for example.

Drugs: 5/5
None! This is Disney Channel, people!

Frightening/Intense Scenes: 3.5/5
Not only is there an accident that is said to be debilitating, but there are two scenes where a dog is feared to be dead, and the same thing happens once with a human character. (Spoiler: In every case, they're just joking, and are perfectly fine.)

Final Score: 3/5
With the Winter Olympics coming up next month, the entire world--it would seem, at least--is focusing on figure skating, skiing, and other icy/snowy sports.  It makes sense, then, that Disney Channel would choose now to release this telefilm, not only because of the upcoming Sochi games, but also because Dove Cameron has already become an established star on the network.  Whether or not they will release Cloud 9 on DVD is uncertain, but, I would suggest either watching it live or recording it on your DVR, even if it gets the home video treatment.  Like many of the original movies from the Mouse Network, this one is not a film to be watched again and again.  It's definitely a great movie, but it's not one that people will be talking about for years to come.

21 January 2014

Movie Review: "The Mark 2: Redemption"

Rated: Not Rated (Dove approved for ages twelve and up)
Starring: Craig Sheffer, Sonia Couling, and Eric Roberts
Released: May 7, 2013 (DVD/Blu-Ray)
Synopsis: In this sequel to 2012's The Mark, expert soldier and marksman Chad Turner (Craig Sheffer) is trying to protect his flight attendant friend Dao (Sonia Couling) while on the run from people who only want him dead.  With the mass disappearances of the Rapture, people all over the planet are in a state of panic...and Phillyp Turk (Iván Kamarás) is taking the world by storm with his message of peace and unity in such desperate times.  The "end times" story continues with plenty of action and even a few surprises...

Artistic Merit

Plot: 4/5
Though not the greatest storyline, the film's version of the "end times" is more believable than what Jenkins and LaHaye gave us.  It kept me interested until the end, and that's actually saying something.

Production Values: 3.5/5
The acting was great, especially from veteran actor Eric Roberts, who appeared in the prequel and in a previous Christian movie, In the Blink of an Eye.  However, the scenes with burning buildings look a bit fake, and one song used on the soundtrack is rather annoying.

Moral Content

Positive Elements: 4/5
Chad, Dao, and others show courage in the face of adversity, and risk their lives for each other.  More than one character gains a belief in God by the film's end; one even shares her new beliefs with her friends.

Sex: 4.5/5
Prostitution is referenced, but only briefly.

Nudity: 4.5/5
Part of a guy's chest is seen.

Violence: 2/5
The first film in this series was given a caution for violence by the Dove Foundation.  While this one isn't quite as violent, it still isn't for the VeggieTales crowd.  Several people are shot dead, including one who is seen with multiple bloody gunshot wounds; one character is shot in the arm, though it isn't fatal; two guys get into a brawl that ends in one's death; two scenes involve a guy getting hit with a large object; a boat is shot at and explodes; a man is seen with blood on his face several times; some flashback scenes from the first film show people with blood on their clothes; and, buildings are seen on fire at least four or five times.  Like most other end-times movies (Jerusalem Countdown, Left Behind: World at War), this one would likely have gotten a "PG-13 for violence" from the MPAA.

Language: 4/5
Only one profanity: the Australian crudity "bu---r".

Drugs: 3.75/5
Smoking cigarettes is both seen and talked about; drinking wine is only seen.

Frightening/Intense Scenes: 1/5
Not only is there plenty of violence, but the whole bleak, dark tone of the movie may be too much for some viewers.  Also, one scene involves a father paying for a gambling debt by giving his daughter to some unsavory characters.

Other: 4/5
Some may have a problem with the fact that a group of women only stand nearby when the protagonist fights one of the villains.

Final Score: 4/5
I likely won't be watching either of the films in this duology again, but, for what they were, they were entertaining and well-made.  Having professional talent--not just Eric Roberts--seems to be to this film's benefit, as you don't have any cringe-inducing scenes in this one.  In years past, Christian movies paled in comparison to their secular counterparts; now, they're higher in quality and more successful than they have ever been.  Obviously, the first one in this series sold well, or they wouldn't have bothered making a sequel.  I doubt that we'll be seeing The Mark 3--if they were going to produce it, I'm sure we would have heard about it by now--but these are definitely worth watching.  Just borrow or rent it before you shell out the bucks for a full purchase.

16 January 2014

TV Series Review: "Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?"

Rated: TV-Y7
Starring: Rita Moreno, Jennifer Hale, Scott Menville, and Rodger Bumpass
Released: 1994-1999 (original TV premieres) / February 21, 2012 (DVD)
Synopsis: Carmen Sandiego (veteran actress Rita Moreno) is the world's greatest thief.  As the head of criminal agency V.I.L.E., she steals not only historical documents and artifacts, but even famous landmarks! It's up to Zack (veteran voice actor Scott Menville) and Ivy (veteran voice actress Jennifer Hale), two siblings who work for detective agency ACME, to stop Carmen and return the stolen items.  Together with the computerized, wisecracking Chief (Rodger Bumpass, SpongeBob SquarePants), they travel not only all over the world, but also through time and space in pursuit of that infamous red-coated robber.  Along the way, they learn all kinds of facts about historical events, legends, geographical locations, and various other topics…and you will, too!
Based on the computer game from Brøderbund Software.

Artistic Merit

Plot: 3.5/5
The plots can be a bit thin at times, but they're engaging enough to keep you interested.  However, Ivy comes off as a bit of a Mary Sue, which tends to be quite annoying.

Production Values: 3/5
The makers of this series probably had no idea that it would ever be released on DVD, and what we have here are likely the original broadcast versions, which, while unedited, likely not remastered either.  That makes some of the photos and animation sequences noticeably fuzzy.  The voice work is great; no problems there.  Probably the biggest problem is the C5 transportation sequence, which gets repeated a few too many times.

Educational Value: 5/5
The original Carmen Sandiego computer game is one of the earliest examples of edutainment, a genre which combines entertainment with educational value.  It's no surprise, then, that this cartoon adaptation discusses plenty of facts about not only history and geography, but world cultures, zoology, astronomy, and various other branches of science.  Compare that to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers or SpongeBob SquarePants, and you'll see that this show is in a completely different league.

Moral Content

Positive Elements: 5/5
Not only is the show quite educational--see above--but Ivy, Zack, and other ACME detectives use critical thinking skills to solve crimes, and also look out for one another.  Carmen may be the main antagonist, but even she looks out for the heroes, even teaming up with them to catch heinous criminals.

Sex: 4.5/5
Occasional kissing and flirting.

Nudity: 3.75/5
Ivy shows some cleavage at times, and she and other women are seen in bikini/sports bra tops and/or short shorts once or twice each.  A select few scenes have shirtless guys.  Some of the photos used for educational purposes have people dressed in similar fashion, but the pictures are so small and lo-fi, it's hard to see details.  One or two statues are in a sensual form.  Of particular note: The producers covered up some explicit parts of famous artwork, such as Michelangelo's statue of David.

Language: 4/5
Mild terms such as "gosh," "golly," and, "Blast!" are used every once in a while.  An unfinished "What the…?" is uttered once.

Violence: 2.5/5
The violence in each episode is akin to a "PG" action/adventure film, such as National Treasure.  Zack, Ivy, Carmen, and various other characters find themselves in dangerous situations left and right.  Ivy uses martial arts moves on the V.I.L.E. goons right many times. (Spoiler: Nobody dies.)  Though there's no blood or gore, I was slightly shocked at the amount of violence within this series.

Drugs: 5/5

Frightening/Intense Scenes: 1.5/5

Along with pretty much every main character ending up in countless perilous situations, an episode involving a haunted house has some visuals that may be too freaky for some kids.  Also, the two-parter that finishes the series features another villain who is a bit chilling.

Other: 3/5
Carmen is a thief who never gets caught, and she claims that she only steals "for the challenge."  Despite her actions being vilified, the fact that she never seems to face punishment for robbing others may influence others to do the same.
Though not exactly negative, this is also of note: Since Carmen, Zack, and Ivy travel all over the world, some people speak foreign languages in the show, and their dialogue is presented with subtitles, which might frustrate kids who struggle with reading.

Final Score: 3.25/5
Carmen Sandiego is pretty much the Mario of edutainment gaming.  Though other computer/video games that teach while entertaining have existed for years, few if any are as well known as the ones with that elusive, red-clad thief.  What started as a computer game from Brøderbund Software has spawned video games, board games, two game shows, and, yes, this cartoon series.  Though the series started out interestingly enough, by the end of the series, I became a bit tired of seeing the came C5 sequence again and again, Ivy was a little too perfect, and the Chief's goofiness got on my nerves.  Still, for being educational and relatively well-made, this series does deserve some kudos.

Quickie Movie Review: "Judgment"

Rated: PG-13 for violence
Starring: Leigh Lewis, Corbin Bernsen, and Jessica Steen
Released: March 6, 2001 (DVD)
Synopsis: Ever since the mass disappearances and the takeover by Franco Macalousso (Nick Mancuso), Helen Hannah (Leigh Lewis) and her fellow Christians have been regarded as "haters".  Helen herself was thought to be dead, but Macalousso actually kept her alive, and is putting her on trial.  When Mitch (Corbin Bernsen, Rust) is hired to be her lawyer, he is just as convinced that she is a hater as much as everyone else.  Will Hannah be able to prove to him--or anyone else--that the God she believes in is real and true?
The final film in Cloud Ten's Apocalypse series.

My Review: This is one of those movies that's best left to interpretation.  On the one hand, having a trial that is supposed to be entirely staged disturbingly smacks of today's "reality" television.  On the other hand, the entire movie is bleak, but…maybe that's the point.  Usually, "end times" fiction--including Left Behind--is so strange that it feels more like an odd fantasy movie than anything that could ever happen.  There's a touch of that in this, but, really, the way society is portrayed in this film is quite close to the way it currently is now, which makes it all the more unsettling.  It's not a wonderful film, by any means, but its message is clear.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: None. 5/5
  • Nudity: A man's midriff is seen. 4.5/5
  • Language: Name-calling includes "idiots." 4.5/5
  • Violence: More than one person is shot dead.  A man is nearly stabbed, and, though he isn't seriously hurt, he gets some blood on his neck. 3.5/5
  • Drugs: A man is seen drinking wine. 4.5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: The entire movie is disturbing and bleak. 1.5/5
  • Other: Some people may disagree with this film's interpretations of "end times" theology. 2.5/5
Final Score: 2.75/5

07 January 2014

Quickie Movie Review: "Suing the Devil"

Rated: Not Rated (Dove approved for ages twelve and up)
Starring: Bart Bronson, Malcolm McDowell, and Corbin Bernsen
Released: April 26, 2012 (DVD)
Synopsis: Luke O'Brien (Bart Bronson) is furious.  After the death of his mother and other tragedies, both personal and international, he believes someone is to blame: Satan.  When he files a lawsuit again the Evil One, everyone is surprised when Satan (Malcolm McDowell, Easy A) appears in the flesh to testify on his own behalf.  Thanks to TV news outlets, people all over the world are glued to their televisions to find out who will win this court battle.  Satan has quite a few tricks up his sleeve, but Luke is determined to win...but will determination be enough?

My Review: The production values for this are much better than usual for Christian movies! The cast is expansive; the acting is mostly great, especially Mr. McDowell's portrayal of Satan; the special effects and cinematography are well-done; and, the film doesn't shy away from showing evil in the world, yet it doesn't glorify it.  Not only that, but it really works well as a celluloid parable! What keeps it from being perfect are some cheesy parts--such as fake-looking devils that are stopped by attractive female angels--and a scene or two of poor acting, as well as a slightly slow pace.  Still, for the "inspirational" movie genre, this is definitely a step in the right direction.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: It is mentioned that the protagonist has viewed online pornography, though he is said to have repented.  In order to find Satan, the protagonist goes to a bar, where (modestly dressed) women are seen pole dancing. 4.5/5
  • Nudity: A few women wear short skirts, one woman is seen in an off-the-shoulder top, and another shows a hint of cleavage. 4.25/5
  • Language: Satan calls people various insulting names, ranging from "idiot" to "Bible-thumper".  The f-word is referenced, but not said.  Probably the most egregious usage of language is when the film's protagonist tells Satan, "Take it and shove it up your..." (The statement is left unfinished. 3.75/5
  • Violence: Satan smacks his lawyers, and even pins one to a bench in anger.  A little girl kicks Satan.  A Satan worshiper wears a "666" shirt with blood on it. 4/5
  • Drugs: It is mentioned that the protagonist's mother was killed by a drunk driver.  Drugs and smoking are mentioned briefly. 4/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: The character of Satan is a bit freaky, and understandably so.  Devils/demons are seen in one scene.  Add to that an emotionally intense scene, as well as the overall theme of the movie, and this is likely too much for young kids. 2/5
  • Other: Some may quibble with the fact that the angels shown are women, when all the Biblical angels are male.  Also, Satan is seen burping. 4/5
Final Score: 3.75/5

04 January 2014

DVD Season Set Review: "What's New, Scooby-Doo?": The Complete First Season

Rated: TV-Y7 (US) / G (Canada)
Starring: Frank Welker, Casey Kasem, and Grey DeLisle
Released: September 14, 2002 - March 22, 2003 (TV premieres) / February 20, 2007 (DVD)
Synopsis: The Mystery, Inc., gang is back in town! Scooby-Doo and his human pals Shaggy, Velma, Daphne, and Fred once again travel the countryside--and the world!--solving mysteries wherever they can find them.  Whether it's the supposed ghost of a deceased baseball player, a sea monster attacking a resort community, or evil clones of themselves that are hitting their hometown, it's up to "those meddling kids" and their insane Great Dane to find the culprit!
Features the voices of Frank Welker and Casey Kasem, who lent their voices to the original cartoons, as well as guest appearances by singer Lindsay Pagano, baseball player Mike Piazza, and *NSYNC's J.C. Chasez.

Artistic Merit

Plots: 4/5
Of course, the plot is generally the same in every episode, but it's still entertaining nonetheless.  This takes everything that was great about the original cartoons, eliminates everything that ruined them in their later years, and places them in a modern setting.  Fans of the old-school favorite who still despise shark-jumper Scrappy to this day will find plenty to love about this show.

Animation: 5/5
With all of the recent animated TV shows that have succumbed to the influence of anime, it's nice to see a fairly new cartoon that features traditional-style, well-done, American animation.  I believe Hanna and Barbera would approve.

Voice Work: 5/5
Of course, when you have two of the original voices, you know it's going to be great, right? Well, it's more than just that; Frank Welker--who originally only voiced Fred as well as "additional" characters--does great as Scooby.  (Don Messick, who originally voiced the animated Great Dane, died years prior to this show airing.) The other voice actors and actresses did great, especially Grey DeLisle, who voiced both Daphne and other random characters, yet made each voice sound different.

Soundtrack: 3.5/5
This is where it went down a bit for me.  The theme music is great; however, though most of the chase scene music is good, one or two songs were rather annoying.  The movie-esque soundtrack is adequate, but nothing special.

Moral Content

Positive Elements: 5/5
Scooby and friends use determination, intelligence, deductive thinking, and teamwork to solve every case.  They also put themselves in dangerous situations in order to save others in the group.  Additionally, the moral of pretty much every episode is: Crime doesn't pay!

Sex: 4.5/5
Nothing worse than a bit of kissing and flirting.

Nudity: 4/5
Some episodes show women--including Daphne--in bikinis or bare-midriff outfits.  Shirtless guys are also seen a time or two.

Language: 4.75/5
Occasional name-calling.

Violence: 3.5/5
Of course there's no blood or gore, right? Still, what would the adventures of Scooby and friends be without chase scenes? Not only that, but, as mentioned above, the gang--and others--are placed in perilous situations.  (Spoiler: Nobody dies.) Also present is cartoony action, mostly from the likes of Shaggy and Scooby.

Drugs: 5/5

Frightening/Intense Scenes: 2/5
Though every monster ends up being nothing more than someone in a suit, some of the "fakes" sound and/or look quite scary at times.  Even I was surprised at how frightening a few of them were.  If you have kids who are easily scared, you might want to screen this before showing it to them.  To most teens and adults, though, it'd be nothing.

Other Negative Elements: 4/5
A bit of crude humor--belching and such--is present.  Also, the gang holds a séance, though it is clearly shown to be a fake.

Final Score: 4.25/5
Me and Scooby-Doo have an interesting history.  I discovered it thanks to my brother-in-law just before graduating from fourth grade, and ended up being a huge fan of it for the next two years.  Though my obsession with it subsided, I still liked it, and watched some episodes of the cartoon--including ones from this series--and a few of the movies--mostly the live-action ones--over the next several years.  While watching this first season, though I recalled some parts of a select few episodes, I was amazed at how new it all seemed to me.  Maybe it's because I understand it better than I did when I was a kid; regardless, I really enjoyed watching this.

Quickie Book Series Review: "Eyes Wide Open" by Ted Dekker

Author: Ted Dekker
Publisher: Outlaw Studios
Published: 2012 - 2013
Synopsis: Who am I?

My name is Christy Snow. I'm seventeen and I'm about to die.

I'm buried in a coffin under tons of concrete. No one knows where I am. My heart sounds like a monster with clobber feet, running straight toward me. I'm lying on my back, soaked with sweat from the hair on my head to the soles of my feet. My hands and feet won't stop shaking.

Some will say that I'm not really here. Some will say I'm delusional. Some will say that I don t even exist. But who are they? I'm the one buried in a grave.

My name is Christy Snow. I'm seventeen. I'm about to die.

So who are you?

In a return to the kind of storytelling that made Black, Showdown and Thr3e unforgettable, New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker drags that question into the light with this modern day parable about how we see ourselves.

Humming with intensity and blindsided twists, Eyes Wide Open is raw adrenaline from the first page to the last; pure escapism packed with inescapable truth. Not all is as it seems. Or is it? Strap yourself in for the ride of your life. Literally.

(From the books' Goodreads page)

My Review: Over the past decade or so, Ted Dekker has had multiple successes in both the Christian and mainstream realms, with allegorical tales and murder/suspense novels.  Few authors in the inspirational genre have gotten as much praise or sold as many books as he has.  I agree with the above summary; this is a return to his early days.  While reading this, I couldn't help but be reminded of his Circle Trilogy.  Unfortunately, though the story is engaging and the writing is amazing, the breadth of the story is a bit underwhelming, especially for one that's spread over four novels.  What we have here is the equivalent of a short "feature-length" (i.e., around seventy minutes) film.  The narrative could have expounded on the characters within quite a bit more.  It's enjoyable for what it is, but, I have a feeling that, for most readers, it won't be enough.

Score: 2.75/5